Virginia pastor dies of COVID-19 after refusing to cancel in-person church services

A Virginia pastor who made headlines for rejecting social distancing guidelines by continuing to hold Sunday church services has died of COVID-19, and his wife has also tested positive for the virus, according to the New York Post.

Bishop Gerald O. Glenn of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Richmond died Saturday night, the church announced Sunday. He and his wife, Marcietia Glenn, tested positive on April 4.

On March 22, Glenn led service and expressed his intention to continue preaching “unless I’m in jail or the hospital.”

“I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus. You can quote me on that,” Glenn said during his sermon.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued guidance discouraging gatherings larger than 10 people on March 17, and officially banned such gatherings a day after Glenn’s sermon.

Glenn’s daughter, Mar-Gerie Crawley, told WTVR her father became noticeably sick about a week before taking a COVID-19 test, but they attempted to treat him at home at first because he had diverticulitis, and fevers or sinus infections were common for him.

His health continued to worsen even after trips to the urgent care and emergency room. One night, when his breathing was particularly labored, his family took him to the hospital again, where they kept him and tested him for COVID-19. His condition reportedly improved temporarily when he was put on a ventilator, before he eventually succumbed to the disease.

Although Glenn’s insistence on continuing in-person Sunday church services has been framed as defiance of government orders, Crawley said her father was trying to encourage those in his church who may have been fearful of the coronavirus. After her parents tested positive, however, she encouraged people to adhere to stay-at-home orders.

“I just beg people to understand the severity and the seriousness of this, because people are saying it’s not just about us, it’s about everyone around us,” Crawley told WTVR.

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